Feb. 16, 2010
By, Brandon Rebboah `13
As the spring approaches, the Bronco baseball team is hard at work getting ready for what promises to be a successful season. The Santa Clara roster is filled with new talent - which includes two 2009 MLB Draft picks - to complement a nucleolus of accomplished upperclassmen. All-American sluggers, Tommy Medica and Geoff Klein join No. 1 starter Nate Garcia as the leaders of a team that consists of 20 first-year players, including 14 true freshmen.
Led by ninth-year head coach Mark O'Brien, the Broncos should figure into the West Coast Conference title race, with the team's aim being to qualify for postseason play. The 2010 schedule has been crafted to test the team throughout the season. The Broncos open the year Fri., Feb. 19, against the University of Nevada. After the Nevada series, the Broncos travel to play at the University of Houston.
"One of the things we'll always do here is schedule quality non-conference opponents," said O'Brien. "This year we travel out to Houston which means getting us out of our comfort zone, and into an environment that we might not necessarily see on the West Coast. If we reach our potential and make it into the postseason, I want our guys to be used to that."
Santa Clara's non-conference foes also include some of the premier teams in California - Stanford University, Cal State University, Fullerton and Fresno State University.
"There is going to be some adversity during the year, there always is. How our leadership handles it may be the difference for us this season."
--Head Coach Mark O'Brien
In addition, the Broncos' home field at Stephen Schott Stadium will host the first annual Jack Gifford Memorial Tournament, a dual site tournament co-hosted by San Jose State University.
"It's extremely important that we play teams that will prepare us for our conference and I think we will do that," added O'Brien. "We will be tested early and we will be tested often."
It's hard not to be excited about the schedule and upcoming season, especially considering the caliber of talent O'Brien and his staff have assembled on the 2010 roster. The heart of Santa Clara's batting order features two players who have won WCC batting titles in Medica and Klein.
Medica - who played for the USA National Team in 2007 - has fully recovered from a shoulder injury that kept him sidelined in 2009. Klein is coming off an All-WCC season in which he hit .373 with 21 doubles.
"It's always going to be a battle at this level, especially in the WCC," said Medica, who has twice been named a First Team All-WCC catcher and was the WCC `Freshman of the Year' in 2007. "There are a lot of good teams, a lot of well coached teams. It'll definitely be a fight."
Both Medica and Klein have taken on the role of developing some of the Santa Clara's newest players - most all who've come to the Mission Campus directly from high school. Sacramento area signee Pat Stover was selected in the 17th round of the 2009 MLB Draft after hitting .451 and slugging .756 as a senior at Rocklin High School last spring. Freshman outfielder Matt Ozanne was also drafted by the MLB in June but instead chose to attend Santa Clara.
"We have a lot of young guys on the team, a lot of new guys, that need to get adjusted to D-1 baseball," said Klein. "The game is lot quicker than high school or junior college. We have to get them used to it, help them out with their work in the cage or bullpen, and show them how to prepare."
With aspirations for postseason play and a schedule filled with strong opponents, O'Brien's philosophy is not to highlight any specific matchup or series as `key games.'
"For me, you never want to go into a game saying `this is a huge game," said O'Brien. "We try to treat each game equally; it goes back to our philosophy of `one out at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time."
O'Brien stresses the importance and influence his leaders will play in the team's success. Medica, Klein and Garcia must all perform to their capabilities, which not only includes leading by example, but also motivating their teammates to perform at a high level as well.
"I have to live up to my potential," said Klein, a preseason All-America Honorable Mention pick by Ping!Baseball. "I have to hold myself accountable to what I'm capable of. After that, I think my biggest responsibility is to do the same for everyone else on the team."
"There is going to be some adversity during the year, there always is. How our leadership handles it may be the difference for us this season," said O'Brien.